Big Easy Birthday 2014

New Orleanians know that there’s no possible way to attend even half of our city’s events and festivals – even just the free ones. Summer is the “off-season” and yet our city remains action-packed. On top of Beatles Fest and The Running of the Bulls – it was my birthday this past weekend! Normally, I throw myself a small gathering but since we’d just had a wedding, it seemed like a bit much. Instead, I practiced all my favorite birthday traditions.

I started the day pinning a dollar on my chest so people would wish me a happy birthday everywhere I went. Sure enough, on our long walk to and from the SnoWizard stand, plenty of people gave me their regards – even some in passing cars. I had a celebratory sno-ball and tried a half-and-half for the first time, splitting the flavors between nectar creme and wedding cake. We made friends with a smart, funny little girl named Kennedy and compared sno-ball tongues.

Commander’s Palace is a birthday tradition for many New Orleanians. I love the balloons at the table and the silly, super-tall chef’s hat you have to wear from dessert on. It’s good to be a semi-regular – they treated me like a queen and spoiled me silly with 2 inspired amuse-bouches, 2 cocktail tastings (one fruity and fizzy, the other a milk punch) and a specially-made meal of my favorites – soft-shell crab and a beef filet. As if the service weren’t enough, James Beard award winner Tory McPhail’s food was, as always, outstanding. We finished with the hot and gooey Chocolate Molten Souffle. There are no words…

The next morning, I slept in and missed (again) San Fermin, The Running of the Bulls NOLA-style. The Big Easy Rollergirls and roller derby leagues from all over wear horns and chase runners, spanking them with toy bats. As in Pamplona, the runners wear white with red accents. I can only assume the runners in Spain are as intoxicated as our early-morning participants but the best thing about our run is no one gets gored by a real-live bull.

Like the annual Red Dress Run, the San Fermin is a fundraiser with many fully-costumed but unregistered participants. Attendance predictions for this year’s 8th annual San Fermin run hit 20,000. Though I may never run, I would like to attend this unique event one year. Founded after Katrina, the run is another one of those only-in-NOLA events that reinforces the idea that “We don’t need a reason to party in New Orleans – just a date and location.” (t-shirts available HERE).

We did make it to K. Paul’s for lunch where I was, once again, spoiled rotten for my birthday. Their “deli-style” lunch features a new menu every week, sometimes with non-New Orleans offerings like the English-inspired Bubble and Squeak I had this week.

We bypassed the Bastille Day Festival at Spanish Plaza (and the newly reopened Riverwalk in its newest incarnation as an outlet mall) and took the ferry across the Mississippi for a family pool party and bar-b-que. Anyone who knows me knows I spent most of the day in the jacuzzi. They even had all of my favorite birthday foods – ribs, corn on the cob, birthday cake and fresh strawberries.

Walking on Royal Street later, we found a fun addition to our regular street performers – Davide Martello, the pianist who travels the world with his grand piano dragged behind a bike. A truck takes him to cities that inspire him to create music, then he rides until he finds the perfect location to create his “piano art.” He must love our city as he was just here a few months ago and his mission is to play all the capital cities in the world (Baton Rouge is our state’s capitol and we’re all a long way from our nation’s capitol). He first came up with the bike idea when the city of Dresden created a law stating street performers had to move every half hour.  Necessity truly is the mother of invention.

We didn’t make it to this year’s Beatles Fest but I’m certain it was the best yet as this was the 50th anniversary of the band coming to America. Local musicians like Jimmy Robinson, The Molly Ringwalds, Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. and organizer Chuck Credo play an evening of songs and this year promised to be heavy on the earlier years in celebration of the  anniversary.

It’s not possible to be everywhere doing everything in New Orleans. We have to lay aside any ambitions we may have to attend everything and luxuriate in the knowledge that we live in a city so rich in music, culture and celebration that you can afford to say crazy things like, “I’ll just go to next week’s festival (parade, concert, etc.).” So I spent Sunday making some of my new birthday puzzles – I got one of the Saints playing in the Superdome!

Lastly, a special congratulations to all of the local productions who recently received Emmy nominations including American Horror Story: Coven (17 nominations), HBO’s True Detective (12 noms including 3 for the episode I was in), Bonnie & Clyde (4 noms), HBO’s Treme (4 noms including one for the episode I was in) and Top Chef (1 nom). Looks like everything’s a little better with some Louisiana spice in it.

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Filed under Culture, festival, free events and lagniappe, Local Cuisine

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